Never say Never…

Wednesday 24th April

Well, quite a lot has happened since I left WRWR and went to Gibraltar. Actually, before I left for the relay, the V-Rod decided to go on strike, only firing on the rear cylinder. I managed to coax it home and then up to the workshop intending to try and fix it myself on my return from WRWR… and thereby hangs a tale!

When I got home I had a look on one of the V-Rod forums to see if anyone had any ideas about what the problem might be on such a new bike and it looks like it could be the front coil – the V-Rod has two coil ‘packs’ one in the middle of each cylinder, they actually plug into the top of the spark plugs. Every post seemed to indicate this or one of the earth connections having come loose. It’s a bit of a pain to get to the coils, I have to take off the false petrol tank, the air filter and the velocity stacks and remove the battery to get to the front cylinder head, what a bloody nightmare. The first step is to swap the two coil packs over and start the bike to see if the coil pack is the problem as, if so, the front cylinder would fire and the rear not. However, bright spark me decides to buy a new coil anyway… don’t ask… of course it isn’t the coil at all, but I had to put it all back together to test it, (of course as I’m typing this I’m thinking I actually didn’t need to put it all back, just the battery… mmmm). While I had the coils off I did check the plugs aswell, all good. Ok well I’m going to need the bike next week for a charity challenge ride Annemarie and I are doing for the club next monday, so I better have it taken to Harley to have a look. I usually would go to Warrs at Mottingham as its only 6 miles away, but it’s Monday tomorrow and they are shut. I bought the bike from Lakeside HD so I give them a ring and arrange to have the bike taken over tomorrow morning.

Next morning I go over to the workshop to meet the recovery guy and hand over the bike, then I have to go to work. On Tuesday I call Lakeside to find out what the problem is.. oh, they might be able to look at it late on Thursday afternoon, but I need the bike back, can I have a loan bike… no, we only have one and it’s already out on loan. I have to have a bike for Monday and I’m very fed up with the rod; this is the second breakdown in a year of a new bike thats only done 5000 miles… its gotta go!

I start thinking that I might be better off with another marque, so I start looking at Triumph, I’ve always fancied a Bonneville or maybe another Kawasaki, I like the old bikes especially the 750 Zephyr that I almost bought 25 years ago but got a ZZR600 instead. I have a look on flea bay, there’s quite a few old Zephyrs but they are expensive, looks like they’re a bit of a collectors item. Anyway, long story short – for a change – I decide to test ride a bonnie and am not feeling the love.. it’s ok but feels under powered and clunky, so not for me. Thursday morning I get a call from Lakeside HD and they haven’t managed to trace the problem yet, but they think it’s the wire from the ECM (Electronic Control Module i.e. the brain) to the front coil, is it ok for him to piggy back a wire to test the circuit… erm yes ok, thinking why are they asking me??? Then she tells me that he has already spent 2 hours on the bike and tracing a wiring problem could take several more hours… what about the warranty says I, oh no, she says, it ran out on the 17th March, I say, two weeks ago, come on its only done 5000 miles surely you can look at it under warranty, nope no deal and the bill is currently £180 with possibly the same again plus parts, what do I want them to do… well like I’ve got a choice! They will call back later this afternoon.. um ok. At 5 o’clock I still haven’t heard anything so give them a ring, the woman I spoke to has left already so I have to call back in the morning. So, if I had taken the bike to them when the fault first happened then it would still have been under warranty.. OMG what a bloody plonker!!!!

Right, I need a bike for a club ride on Saturday and the challenge ride on Monday so I ring Warrs and book a hire bike from tomorrow (friday) late afternoon to next wednesday morning – 400 quid… kerching!!

The bike is a Sportster 48, a new one and it’s really a great bike.. I know cos I used to own one, but had forgotten how much fun it is to ride. While I am at Warrs I spend some time looking at the bikes and am offered a test ride on a new Breakout 114 and a new Fat Bob 114. These are the new Milwalkee 8 engines so I am keen to try them out. They are both great bikes, but I really like the Fat Bob, it is very comfortable and the Breakout is a little bit too much like my Fat Boy. I get the sales man to knock up some figures for me, how much roughly for the V-Rod in part ex for the Fat Bob in Wicked Red with loud pipes?? Food for thought.

I ring Lakeside… notice how they haven’t rung me… I speak with a different woman and am told the wire isn’t the problem and now they have other bikes booked in so they will have to rebook my bike for next week… am speechless… well sort of, at least I have the sporty.

On saturday I go out on a club ride and during the day Lakeside call me, they believe it’s the ECM at fault, I explain that it was only changed 6 months ago by Warrs, she says she can’t find it in the bikes record so will call Warrs to confirm and let me know.

On monday Annemarie and I attempt to ride 250 miles in 6 hours, which is harder than it looks, for our club nominated charity The Outside Project for homeless LGBTQI londoners. We have both got a few sponsors so hope to make a bit of money for the charity. The weather is glorious and all is going to plan until after about 120 miles we stop in Great Yarmouth for petrol and I, for the first time ever, put diesel in… the bike won’t run of course so it looks like my ride is over. Annemarie offers to stay with me but I insist she carry on for the charity so off she goes. I call the recovery service who, because its a hire bike, won’t take the diesel out so I can get going, they will only recover me to the nearest dealer, which is Norwich, and I will have to find my own way home… great. I ring Norwich hoping they will get me back on the road… they’re shut!! I call the recovery back, who don’t believe me and then say they will recover me to Norwich and store the bike overnight, seriously… I say what about Newmarket? They reluctantly agree to recover me to Newmarket, so I call them to ask to get me back on the road and they are open, but no service staff are in.. ok I give up.

After about 10 minutes I think if it was my bike I would just take the diesel out myself so that’s what I’m going to do, but how?? I don’t have any tools or pipe/tube… ahh there is a patch of grass, if I push the bike over there I could disconnect the fuel pipe and let the diesel drain out onto the ground.. I leave all my gear and push the bike across the road to the grassy scrubland. I undo the fuel pipe and…. nothing happens… of course the bike is injected so the fuel is pumped to the injectors. Just then someone shouts from the other side of the road where my helmet etc is; its two young women and a child in a pushchair.. they are shouting to say they’re looking after my gear… mmm really, I’d better go and get my stuff. One of the women asks what the problem is and I tell her, she immediately says ‘yep did the same with my bike before’ and I am instantly ashamed for assuming the worst. These two wonderful young women proceed to come with me to the bike and we look at how to get the diesel out. We think about laying the bike down to let the diesel out of the filler cap, but I’m not really happy with that, I dont want to damage the bike, it’s not mine afterall. The petrol station is just there and there is an Asda.. the two women offer to go to the shop to see if they can get some pipe so I can syphon the diesel out. I am always amazed at how supportive women can be to one another and I don’t know why I should be because on all my adventures I have met some wonderful and incredible women who have helped me out of some very tricky situations.

They return after about 20 minutes with a new coil of garden hose, a bucket and a craft knife.. wow… they have actually bought this stuff. We cut a piece of pipe and I syphon the diesel into the bucket; it tastes disgusting and one of the women takes over the last bit as I have had enough.

I offer to pay for the items but they flatly refuse, just marvelous but I do wish they would let me pay. I thank them both profusely and give them a hug then push the bike over to the petrol pump and fill up. The bike takes quite a few attempts, but eventually splutters into life amidst clouds of acrid black smoke, a few seconds and then dies again. I persevere and at last am able to jump on and get going. The bike kangaroos for a couple of miles but at last settles down.

I ride as fast as I can to try and bump up the miles for the charity and when the time runs out have managed 170 miles in total. By the time I get home I have done over 250 miles but in 8 hours.

Still no word from Lakeside and the following day I give them a call, she says she is still waiting for a response from Warrs. I finish work early so decide to return the hire bike to Warrs today instead of tomorrow. I tell the truth about the diesel incident fully expecting to have to pay for the engine to be flushed out or something.. the service manager asks if its running ok, yes.. is it still blowing smoke? no… ok that’s fine then, don’t worry about it. Oh, won’t you need do do anything to it then? Well, yeah, we might take the plugs out and give them a clean, but if it’s running ok then probably not.

I ask him if he has heard from Lakeside, he hasn’t, so I proceed to tell him what’s happening with the rod. After a long discussion he says to get the bike over to them and they will do it under warranty as the fault is with the ECM that they already changed. He also says if I had taken it to them last week he would have given me a loan bike so I would have saved the hire charges… bloody marvellous, I so wish I had waited the extra day until Warrs was open. I immediately call Lakeside and tell them that I will move the bike to Warrs as the fault is related to their part, they are not best pleased. They will still charge me for their labour, £300, she seems surprised I don’t argue about it and tell her to send me an invoice and I’ll pay later. I arrange for the rod to be collected from Lakeside the following morning and taken over to Warrs.

In the midst of all this I decide I am going to rejoin the WRWR in southern Germany, so I will ride the last leg in Germany, Dierdorf to Bollendorf in Luxembourg, then from there into Belgium and on to the first leg in the Netherlands leaving at Amersfoort and returning to the UK. This was all going to be done on the V-Rod, but now I have lost all confidence in the bikes reliability and have more or less made up my mind to change it, but for what??

A few days later and the V-Rod is fixed, I remember it needs a 5000 mile service too so ask them to do that before I collect it. When I pick her up I am expecting to pay for the service, but he says not to worry as it’s only a small service and it will go towards the cost of the hire bike that I wouldn’t of needed if I had taken the bike there in the first place.. now why on earth would I take my bikes anywhere else in the future??

Riding the rod home and I just love it, well love riding it, she is a dream.. so smooth and responsive and fast!! But, the exhaust pipe is still bloody murderously hot and I’m half expecting it to break down again.

It’s now good friday, a bank holiday and easter weekend is here… I decide to go back to Warrs and talk about swapping the rod in for the Fat Bob. I’ll have to forego the Wicked Red paint and get the ex-demo in denim black, probably almost my least favorite colour, but I’m due to go to Germany next Thursday so can’t wait for a new bike. It’s a lovely day and I arrive at Warrs around 10 am.. it’s shut, what! I’m going out riding with a couple of the girls tomorrow and am busy Sunday, Monday Warrs is shut and I am working all day Tuesday, ummm. I did see a Fat Bob in denim red, seriously ugly, for sale at Oxford HD quite a bit cheaper than the Warrs figures, think I’ll take a ride over and have a look. I ring first to make sure they are open and still have the Fat Bob on sale, I also book a test ride, just want to make sure it’s what I want.

A couple of hours after riding around the M25 car park, I mean over 50 miles of filtering.. exhausting, I arrive at Oxford HD. I really don’t like the red, I just don’t like denim paintwork, which is odd because the Fat Boy is denim. Anyway there is a brand new shiny black one stood next to it and I get talking to one of the sales men and mention that I prefer the black one, but it’s a lot more then the red and that is a very good price. I go out on the test ride and really do like the feel of the bike. When I get back I’m seen by another sales guy, Jonny, who tells me the chap I was talking to earlier is the sales manager and he has decided to offer me the black glossy new bike at the same price as the denim red… sold says I, give me a pen and tell me where to sign. They are offering the same as Warrs in part ex for my V-Rod so I decide to go ahead and all is done and dusted there and then. I can come back on Wednesday to drop the rod and pick up the new Bob so I will take it to Germany with me on Thursday.

The next day, me and a couple of the girls from the club took a round trip down to Stonehenge and back, we really had a great ride and as we were all on fast bikes made the most of them. It was a great farewell to the rod, we had a real blast. On the way we stopped at Oxford HD, well we were passing by just 2 miles away so, as I was leading, we pulled in of course. Pumper took some photos of me on the new bike…

So today I went to Oxford to pick up the new bike. I did feel a bit sad to be saying goodbye to the V-Rod, it’s a great bike and I would buy another one in a heartbeat, I guess this one was just jinxed so it had to go, but am very much looking forward to my adventures on the Bob, I’ve got new exhaust mufflers, a screamin’ beagle air intake and a Vance and Hines Fuelpak 3 coming to soup it up a bit and make it louder, but they won’t be here in time to do it for tomorrow. I also have a luggage rack etc. arriving today I hope, otherwise I will have to take a rucksack on my back.. eek!

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